It is not fair, I say to the Owner, to call me a Bad Dog because I Barked at the Angry Parent. I am a Dog. It is a Species Norm for me to Bark. A Moral Dog cannot be Good or Bad in such matters, he can only be a Dog.
The Moral Dog knows full well that be barked in a Savage fashion at the Angry Parent, says the Owner, One cannot pick and choose when one is to be Moral.
It was my Instinct, I say.
Then why did you look Furtive when I came round the corner? Asks the Owner. Looking Furtive implies that the Moral Dog knew that he was being Bad.
Au contraire, I say. The Moral Dog merely looked Furtive because he anticipated an Inexplicable session of Criticism punctuated by demands for Confession and Apology that were Entirely Unmerited in the face of a Normal Dog producing a Normal Bark in the Face of an Angry Human. The Owner is Anthropomorphically equating Barking to Shouting Rudely in order to conclude it was wrong. One has to understand the source and motivation of a Bark before drawing such conclusions.
If the Moral Dog is claiming that he acts only on instinct, says the Owner, then he cannot claim to be Moral at all.
Barking is External to Morality, I say. It does not Count.
What is a Moral Dog saying when he Barks? Ask the Owner.
Most Barking roughly translates as OY YOU LOON WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE COME HERE AND DO THAT! I say.
Exactly, says the Owner. That is Rude.
Not when it comes from a Dog, I say. When if comes from a Dog it is Instinct and therefore does not Count.
What else is Instinct and therefore does not count? Asks the Owner.
Slobbering, Ball Re-assignment, eating Fox Poo, Getting Underfoot and Saying Hello Enthusiastically are all Instinctive Dog Norms that cannot be Assigned Moral Goodness and Badness, I say. The Moral Dog does them because he is a Dog, chosen by the Owner for that Very Dogness.
Give me some examples of Dog Behaviours to which Moral Goodness and Badness could be Assigned, says the Owner, and I may be convinced.
A Moral Dog could not be worth the name if he tried to Silence Press Criticism by getting his Friends to call it un-British, if he failed to consult the devolved nations before telling them what they had to do, and if he Failed to Enact Public Health Measures to contain Covid because he believed the Economy was worth the Risk even before he had taken the time and advice to Understand the Risk, I say.
Merely listing the Failings of the Prime Minister does not get the Moral Dog off the hook, says the Owner. When the Buddhist Philosopher Zhao Zhu was asked if a Dog could be Moral he replied with the sound 無, or MU! which is a Chinese representation of a dog barking. Clearly he was aware that it means OY YOU LOON WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE COME HERE AND DO THAT! That seems to suggest he meant that Barking Dogs were not Moral at all.
He may equally have meant yes, I say, that is the point about Buddhist Philosophers.
I take your point, says the Owner, but Immanuel Kant did not think Dogs could be Moral either, and he is the Father of Western Philosophy.
We have discussed Immanuel Kant before, I say, and he is more of a Grumpy Uncle that did not Like Dogs. Frans De Waal says it is wrong to claim Morality as the unique veneer that keeps Humans separate from animals, I say. The Philosopher Mark Rowlands says that his Dog is Moral, as demonstrated by his Concern for Others, I say. I would like to go on to explain that when Superdog and his Trusty but Morally Equal Companion Fluffy rescued the Small Human from its Angry Parent and hid in a bush before barking when the Angry Parent attempted to remove it, we were demonstrating the same Concern, but I do not want to reveal the Truth.
Do not play the Slippery Mark Rowlands Eel with me, says the Owner, Mark Rowlands merely says that Dogs are Good, he does not say that they are Moral. He says that Dogs are Good because it is their Evolved Nature to show Concern, and they are not therefore Morally Responsible even if they, for example, silence press criticism or fail to consult the Devolved Nations. The Moral Dog cannot have it both ways. One can either be Instinctive or Moral, but not Both.
I do not see why, I say. Humans do things Instinctively and consider them Moral. I seem to recall that the Owner ran into the bushes and seized the Small Human out of Instinct, causing it Great Regret, but pleasing the Large and Anxious Human that was Looking for It Frantically and of whose Franticness the Moral Dog was unaware. Surely this was both Instinctive and Moral.
You have a point, says the Owner. Marc Bekoff believes that Morality is an evolutionary trait of all mammals. Yuval Noah Harari believes that Morality was evolved as a means for a Species to Cooperative and it has enabled Humans to Rule the World. When one thinks of it like that, perhaps Morality is only a form of self-preservation and it is not therefore Moral to be Moral.
It would be Very Deflating to think that Morality is not itself Moral, I say.
Indeed, says the Owner, looking very Deflated.
Perhaps, I say, one should consider cross-species Morality. Thus a Dolphin that rescues another Dolphin may be acting in a manner evolved for Species Preservation, but a Dolphin which rescues a Human from a Shark is said to show Moral Goodness, because there is Nothing in it for Him. Perhaps Morality is Moral when one acts without thought for oneself but for the Good of Others.
That is a good idea, says the Owner, brightening up. Yes, she says, gathering Steam again, that is clearly a better view of Morality, since it suggests that the Moral Dog may be Moral and therefore a Good Dog only when he acts in accordance with the Morals of Humans and refrains from Barking. We have solved the Moral Conundrum and Proved my Point, which would be enormously satisfying to One less moral than myself. The Moral Dog may now apologise with his Moral Nature intact and consider the incident forgotten.
On the other hand, I say, it also suggests that a Moral Dog who Barks in a manner appropriate to Ancestral Dogs because he is defending a Small Human from its Angry Parent is being Morally Good. Moreover, he is defending the Underdog which is generally felt to be a Morally Admirable Trait by Humans, and in fact it is therefore the Owner who should apologise in order to keep her Moral Nature intact and consider the incident Forgotten.
Damn, once again the Moral Dog is a Slippery Eel, says the Owner.
The Moral Dog. Beyond criticism.
Categories: barking dignity dog dog philosophy ethics evolution Kant Moral Dog philosophy primeval dog
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.
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